Northcliffe Park is in Shipley, north west Bradford, West Yorkshire. As well as parkland and meadows, it includes Northcliffe Woods on its southern edge and Old Spring Wood to the north. Both woods are classed as semi-natural ancient woodland.
Northcliffe is on the northern edge of the Nottingham-Yorkshire Coalfield, with layers of mudstone, shale, coal, fireclay and sandstone below the surface. Northcliffe Woods lies in a valley formed not by North Cliff Dike which now trickles through it, but by glacial melt water 14,000 years ago.
The view today looks very green but its history over the past 300+ years is one of agriculture and industry. The parkland and meadows were farmed into the twentieth century. Coppiced wood and timber were extracted from the woodlands. Coal, stone and fireclay were extracted from beneath fields and woods. There were mine shafts, underground galleries, drainage tunnels, quarries and fireclay & brick works.
The parkland and Northcliffe Woods were purchased from the Rosse family and gifted by Sir Norman Rae to Shipley Town Council for the recreation and benefit of the public. The Park was opened in 1920 and, being saved from development, now provides an opportunity to explore evidence of mineral extraction which is elsewhere concealed in north Bradford. Extensive archives provide opportunities for historical research.
In November 2013 the Friends of Northcliffe (FoN) called a well attended public meeting, which heard from staff from the University of Bradford Archaeological Sciences Department and others outline the potential for a project exploring the archaeology and history of Northcliffe. A group of people came together to take this idea forward and after exploring options decided not to apply for funding but to put out a call for volunteers to undertake survey work. A group of about 30 people responded and with the support of a local archaeologist and local historians, the team were trained in basic survey techniques and set out to map the entire area, recording all features they could find. With assistance from the University of Bradford team various geophysics approaches were used, funded by FoN. Two excavations were carried out, led by knowledgeable volunteers. The main project surveys took place in 2014-16. The results were recorded in a database and draft summaries as areas of the park were surveyed or excavated and historical records interrogated. Public meetings reported back the work to the wider interested public.
A series of display boards was created and shown in the local library (put link to boards here). Guided walks have been offered over the past seven years and have been well attended; self guided walk maps have been created (put link in here). A summary report and the full length report are currently being compiled.